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Background note & Programme of BB56: The Land-Water-Energy nexus and the Sustainability of the Food System

Global trends such as increasing population, rising incomes, income disparity, urbanization and resource extraction are applying tremendous pressure on our ability to secure clean and adequate water supplies, nutritious and available food supplies, as well as sustainable and secure energy supplies. In the coming decades, growing populations with higher incomes will drive a strong increase in global demand for goods and services. Global gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to quadruple between 2011 and 2060, according to the central baseline scenario projected with the OECD ENV-Linkages model. By 2060, global average per capita income is projected to reach the current OECD level (around USD 40 000). Production and consumption are shifting towards emerging and developing economies, which have higher materials intensity.1 In most of the analysed scenarios the temperature shows significant increase in all SubSaharan Africa regions, while the yearly distribution of the precipitation does not follow the same increasing pattern, with the majority of climate models projecting decreases in annual precipitation that reach 20% by 2080. At the same time, it is expected that the agricultural production will require larger water quantities for irrigation, to maintain and increase the output. Thus, scaling up the efficient and sustainable utilization of both surface and groundwater resources is absolutely necessary to adapt to a dynamically changing environment and the increasing needs for food production. In a growing natural resource scarcity context, making progress in one area, such as food security, will likely adversely affect progress in other areas, such as water security or environmental sustainability. As a result, business-as-usual approaches are no longer an option. Instead, advances in food security need to be addressed within a nexus perspective incorporating key interlinkages with related sectors, including water and energy.2 In parallel to the pivotal challenge facing human kind of reducing hunger and extreme poverty, the need to create and expand efficient systems of energy supply and use in emerging economies highlights the need for research on alternative forms of energy use, in particular the role of biomass.3 Delivering water, energy and food for all in a sustainable and equitable way is a major challenge faced by society. The interactions between water, energy and food in a nexus approach are crucial for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and key to fight poverty, protect the planet and promote peace and prosperity. Out of the total seventeen SDGs, three of them have a particular focus on water, energy and food. Accordingly, SDG#2 aims at fighting hunger and malnutrition. SDG#6 aims at providing access to safe water and sanitation as well as ensuring a sound management of freshwater ecosystems. SDG#7 promotes energy access for all and supports actions to meet targets for increased share of renewable energy sources’ (RES) use and high levels of energy efficiency (EE).

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Mariana Lemos
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25 June 2019

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